Crime

The Disappearance of Mary Louise Watkins – Ashley H

Mary Louise Watkins is a missing woman from Modesto, California. Mary is reported as missing as of May 17, 1979. At the time of her disappearance, Mary was 5’2 and about 130 pounds. She is white with brown hair and hazel eyes. She had surgical scars on her lower torso.

Mary was born on April 20, 1925, making her 57 at the time she was reported missing. Today, she would be 94 years old. Before she disappeared, Mary was a nurse at Modesto City Hospital.

Mary is reported as seen by friends she lived with. She was packing her belongings into a vehicle, and had apparently told friends she was leaving town.

Apparently, Mary gave conflicting stories to her friends about where she was going. Some were under the impression she was moving to San Jose, about 90 miles way, and planned to invest money with a friend. She had sold her move and had $28,000 in cash as a result.

Apparently, her daughter had no plans for her mother to move in, and she was also seemingly unaware that Mary had sold the home.

Two days after Mary was last seen, her vehicle was discovered on the 600 block of Coffee Road, near what is now the Sutter Gould Medical Foundation. Her belongings were not in her car.

A few days after the discover of Mary’s vehicle, Mary’s daughter received a letter seemingly written by Mary. The letter stated Mary intended marry. No additional news followed.

Mary Louise Watkin’s disappearance is not dissimilar to several other cases in the area.

Hester Lee Chandler disappeared in 1974 from Modesto. She was 60 years old at the time, and on the September day she disappeared, she’d withdrawn $9,000 from the bank.

The disappearance of Jacqueline Cooper is also similar to that of Hester and Mary’s. Jacqueline disappeared on November 12, 1976, from Modesto. She was 27 at the time.

Patty Gay Hogue also disappeared in mysterious circumstances. She was 43 in August of 1978 when she was last seen. She is reported as attending a family reunion that June in South Dakota. There, she told her family that her husband of 27 years, James Toliver, had threatened her and members of her family if she attended the reunion. She wasn’t seen again, and James had allegedly removed the money out of their joint accounts.

Toliver has emerged as a suspect in each of the cases listed above. The forklift operator and cannery worker had joined several singles groups after his wife, Patty, disappeared. He would sometimes use the name Jim Joy, and he was known to gamble.

James died on October 8, 1980, and was found next to his pickup truck. He’d parked along a dirt road in essentially the middle of nowhere in Hope Valley, near Lake Tahoe. He had died of a heart attack at the age of 46.

James had a .38-caliber pistol on his body, and he was also carrying a pillowcase stained with blood. Inside the pillowcase was $98,000.

A mile away from James and his truck was the body of 49-year-old Florence Richina. The teacher had been shot with a .38-caliber pistol, and footprints led from her body to the place where Toliver fell, dead. The money inside James’s pillowcase was the same amount she withdrew from the bank.

Unfortunately, there is still a lot authorities do not know about Watkins and her disappearance. While she cannot be explicitly tied to Toliver, the situation certainly fits his M.O. Plus, both people were actively dating at the time and had apparently joined groups to meet other singles.

A direct link between Jacqueline Cooper and James Toliver does exist. The day she disappeared, she had been with Toliver, her co-worker. She had apparently been with him under duress, and he claimed he would hurt her family if she did not go with him. She pulled $4,000 out of her bank account as well.

No official information links Hester to Toliver, but her disappearance shares similarities with the others.

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